Catahoula German Shepherd Mix: A Complete Breed Guide


Many people prefer different characteristics of certain dogs. Current breeding practices allow you to pick and choose between these characteristics and choose the right dog for you.

The Catahoula German Shepherd mix is an even-tempered breed with a striking appearance. They are highly intelligent and protective, which makes them very loyal, but also requires a high level of training and socialization. This breed is prone to health problems as well, so great care must be taken when selecting a breeder.

In this article, we will explain the specific characteristics that these dogs possess. We will also go over what you should expect from a Catahoula German Shepherd if you decide to actually purchase or adopt one.

What Is a Catahoula German Shepherd Mix?

A Catahoula German Shepherd mix is just that: a mix between a Catahoula Leopard dog and a German Shepherd. Since Catahoula Leopard dogs tend to vary in their looks, so does the Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

To understand what a Catahoula German Shepherd mix may look like, we must first understand each breeds’ physical characteristics.

Catahoula Leopard dogs, also known as the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog, Catahoula cur, or the hog dog, are bred from mastiffs, Beaucerons, red wolves, and wild dogs that belonged to local Louisiana Native Americans.

There were three types of Catahoula Leopard dogs: the Wright, the McMillin, and the Fairbanks.

  • The Wright. Raised by a man named Preston WrightOpens in a new tab., these dogs were characterized by weighing between 90 and 110 pounds (40 and 50 kilograms).
  • The McMillin. T.A. McMillin raised these dogs. Their glass eyes and blue coloring characterized them. They are the smallest of the three, weighing in at around 50 to 60 pounds (22 to 40 kilograms).
  • The Fairbanks. Lovie Fairbanks raised these dogs who were brindle to yellow in color. They were somewhere in the middle of the Wright and the McMillin, weighing in at 65 to 75 pounds (29 to 34 kilograms).

These three types of Catahoula Leopard dogs have been inbred for generations, causing a wide variety in the breed. The breed now consists of:

  • Red Leopard. Different shades of tan and brown.
  • Blue Leopard. Different shades of a dark gray color mixed with black.
  • Black Leopard. Characterized by small patches of blue or gray.
  • Gray or Silver Leopard. Looks like a blue leopard, except the black color, looks gray or silver.
  • Tri-color. Characterized by a white, black, and gray color.
  • Quad-color. Gray Catahoula Leopard dog with tan or white trim.
  • Five-color. Gray Catahoula Leopard dog with tan or white trim.
  • Patchwork. White with small patches of black or brown.

Its striking eye color also characterizes the Catahoula Leopard dog. They often have heterochromiaOpens in a new tab., which is a variation in eye color. They may have glass eyes, gray eyes, marbled eyes, or spots in their eyes.

Giving them the ability to work in the marshy Louisiana swamps, the Catahoula Leopard dog usually has webbed feet, which also helps with swimming. They also have drop ears and a long, curved tail.

Now let’s move on to the German Shepherd. This breed is more consistent than the Catahoula Leopard Dog. They tend to all look very similar to one another.

German Shepherds usually have brown eyes, long bushy tails, and pointed ears. Their coats range anywhere from black to brown and tan, all the way to a white color. They can weigh anywhere from 50-90 pounds (22-40 kilograms).

So what does a Catahoula German Shepherd mix look like? Well, each one looks different than the other.

They usually have a brown or tan coat, pointy ears, and brown eyes. However, it depends on the dominant trait. They may also have a lighter coat, drop ears, and glass eyes.

A normal Catahoula German Shepherd mix weighs anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds (22 to 40 kilograms).

Is a Catahoula German Shepherd Mix the Right Breed for Me?

Catahoula German Shepherds are not the right dog for everyone since they require a lot of training.

Both Catahoula Leopard dogs and German Shepherds are known for their aggressive behavior, especially towards strangers. Therefore, the Catahoula German Shepherd mix is also characterized by their aggressive behavior, so they are not recommended for first-time dog owners. 

It’s very important to train the Catahoula German Shepherd mix early on while they’re still a puppy. And unless you have a lot of dog training experience, it is also wise to bring them to a trainer for professional help.

However, there are some things you can do to quell some of their aggressive behavior 

  • Socialization: It’s vital for a breed with aggressive tendencies to be socialized. It’s best to socialize a puppy within the first three months. To socialize, expose your puppy to various types of people, places, sounds, and experiences.
  • Prevent biting: Biting may be a way for puppies to play, but there may be a point when it becomes a little too aggressive. If that is the case, it is best to distract your puppy with toys.
  • Leash training: Another way to help with a puppy’s aggressive behavior is to use a leash, even in the house. This shows the puppy that you are in command.
  • Positive reinforcement: Reward desired behavior with treats or praise.

Do You Have the Means to Care for Your Puppy Properly?

As mentioned above, you may want to enlist a trainer to properly train your puppy, which will cost money. This will help with its aggression, behavior issues and help you develop a stronger relationship with your puppy.

The cost doesn’t stop at training. You will also need to get a good, strong collar and leash to help your puppy training properly. You can purchase a Black Rhino Padded Dog CollarOpens in a new tab. on Amazon.com that is very sturdy.

Catahoula German Shepherd mixes tend to be inquisitive animals. You need to make sure you have enough space either in or outside your house for them to roam and exploreOpens in a new tab.

Catahoula Leopard Dog and German Shepherd Basic Facts

The Catahoula German Shepherd mix, though aggressive, carries many other qualities. We will now go over some of the traits of each side of the breed that you may see in your Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Basic Facts

If you’re looking for a watchdog, look no further. The Catahoula Leopard dog is extremely protective. They’re great guard dogs as they are extremely wary of strangers. They are also great with children. 

Catahoula dog standing

The original use for these dogs was hunting. Years later, they were used to help bring livestock to slaughter. Therefore, Catahoula Leopard dogs are built to hunt for prey.

Be careful if you have any other pets because they may injure small animals. Because of the history of these dogs, they are known for being working dogs. 

Catahoula Leopard dogs are also very smart and often used by law enforcement, as they are quick to evaluate certain situationsOpens in a new tab..

Although they are aloof a lot of the time, Catahoula Leopard dogs are extremely loyal and gentle creatures, especially to their owners and handlers.

The life expectancy of a Catahoula Leopard dog is between 10 and 14 years.

German Shepherd Basic Facts

German Shepherds are actually extremely similar to Catahoula Leopard dogs in their work and temperament. 

German Shepherd dog standing

German Shepherds were first bred in Germany in the early 1900s when a cavalry officer tried to create the perfect dog for herding sheep. In World War I, the breed was then used by the German army to do all sorts of work.

Much like the Catahoula Leopard dog, the German Shepherd is also a perfect working dog. 

German Shepherds are an extremely intelligent breed, which makes them perfect for law enforcement. They excel in jobs that require problem-solving.

They are also aloof around people they don’t know, but they are extremely loving to their handlers and owners.

The life expectancy of a German Shepherd is between 9 and 13 years.

For more on German Shepherd life expectancy, as well as their role in police and military roles, be sure to check out these 2 excellent articles below:

  1. How Long Do German Shepherds Live? A Detailed Guide
  2. Why are German Shepherds Good Police Dogs?

What to Expect With the Catahoula German Shepherd Mix

Now that you know each breed’s specific purpose and temperament let’s go over what you should expect with your Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

Intelligence

Since both Catahoula Leopard dogs and German Shepherds are extremely smart creatures, your mix will be no different.

You can expect this breed to come along with a high level of intelligence and excellent problem solving skills.

Guarding Instincts

These dogs will make a perfect security guard for your family, especially if you have young kids, as this breed is very compatible and protective of babies and toddlers.

The Catahoula German Shepherd may even start to think that you and your family are part of its pack!

Herding Tendencies

This characteristic is a little strange, but these dogs can sometimes herd small children, which may be concerning. Their genetics can lead them to believe that they have a duty, but it’s not harmful if you train them out of it while they’re young.

Again, this goes back to training from a young age. The earlier that you start, the more effective the training will be.

Here is a great video that will give you a very good idea of what to expect in terms of how your Catahoula German Shepherd mix may look like:

Health Concerns

Before you decide to purchase a Catahoula German Shepherd mix, it’s important to know everything that comes with the dog, including possible health problems.

Let’s now take a look at possible health concerns that can ail your Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

Hip Dysplasia

Unfortunately, hip dysplasia Opens in a new tab.is common in both Catahoula Leopard dogs and German Shepherds, so it’s definitely something to watch out for in your Catahoula German Shepherd mix. 

Hip dysplasia usually develops when your dog is a puppy. It’s a genetic disease that occurs when the hip joints form improperly.

This can cause your dog to develop arthritis eventually. If your dog is limping or having trouble getting up or lying down, then it is very important to take them to the vet for x-rays.

Other symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

  • Not being able to keep up with you on walks
  • Weak or thin muscles on your dog’s hind legs from disuse atrophyOpens in a new tab. or muscle wasting
  • Strong or thick muscles on your dog’s front legs from overuse
  • Your dog using his front legs only when getting up
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sleeping too much
  • No interest in climbing stairs
  • No interest in playing or jumping
  • Tossing and turning
  • Pain or soreness after exercise
  • Stiffness

If your dog does have hip dysplasia, there are things you can do:

  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroids 
  • Vitamins and joint supplements
  • Diet to decrease weight

If this is not enough, your dog may need surgery. There are currently three types of surgery to help with hip dysplasia:

  • Triple or double pelvic osteotomy procedure: These procedures involve osteotomiesOpens in a new tab. of the pelvis. They can only be performed on dogsOpens in a new tab. less than ten months old.
  • Femoral head ostectomy: This procedure involves removing the head and neck of the femur bone.
  • Total hip replacement: This procedure involves removing the damaged hip bone and replacing it with an artificial one.

Bloat

Gastric dilatation-volvulus also referred to as bloat, can occur when the stomach rotates, cutting off the blood supply.

Bloat is a serious and life-threatening illness, killing about thirty percentOpens in a new tab. of the dogs it affects. Symptoms of bloat include:

  • A bloated or enlarged abdomen
  • Pain when you press on your dog’s stomach
  • Excess saliva
  • Unproductive retching
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • An extended neck with elbows pointed outward
  • The color of the tissues above your dog’s teeth turn from pink to pale
  • Collapse

A dog can die from bloat within an hour if not treated quickly. If you suspect bloat, should rush your dog to either the vet or the emergency animal hospital immediately.

To treat bloat, a veterinarian may:

  • Stick a tube down the dog’s throat into his stomach to release any pressure. If the stomach is too twisted to get the tube into his stomach, the vet may stick a needle in the dog’s stomach to release pressure.
  • Set the dog up on an IV
  • Take x-rays
  • Surgically tilt the stomach back the correct way. The vet may also staple the stomach in place since many dogs who have bloat will get it again at some point.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative MyelopathyOpens in a new tab. is a progressive, incurable, and painless disease caused by a spinal cord’s degeneration. It usually occurs in dogs who are seven or older.

Symptoms of degenerative myelopathy include:

  • Muscle weakness or atrophy
  • Lack of coordination and trouble keeping their balance
  • Dragging of the back legs
  • Urinary and bowel incontinence

Unfortunately, once degenerative myelopathy sets in, you cannot do much as it is incurable. However, you can make your dog more comfortable by buying them a support leash, harness, or even a wheelchair.

Canine Periodontitis

By the age of two or three, at least 80 percentOpens in a new tab. of dogs develop some form of dental disease. It is by far the most common health problem in dogs.

Canine periodontitis, a bacterial infection, is one of these diseases. Here are the symptoms to look for in canine periodontitis:

  • Foul breath
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Yellow or brown teeth
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Loss of appetite or trouble eating
  • Weight loss

Canine periodontitis can lead to serious health problems if not treated. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, take your dog to the vet immediately for care.

This disease can lead to heart, kidney, liver, and even problems, so it’s vital to take care of your Catahoula German Shepherd mix’s teeth. It can even shorten your dog’s lifespan by up to three years.

Here are some ways to prevent dental disease in your dog’s mouth:

Obesity

Dogs are obese if they weigh at least 20 percent greaterOpens in a new tab. than their ideal body weight.

Obesity can lead to much bigger health problems in your dog, such as joint issues, bladder stones, and cancer.

It can also take up to two years off a dog’s lifespan, so it is crucial to prevent obesity in your Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

There are a few ways to tell if your dog is obese:

  • Your dog pants while walking or doing normal activities.
  • You cannot feel your dog’s ribs, as there is a layer of fat masking them.

There are ways to prevent or help your already overweight dog. They are as follows:

  • Exercise: Getting your dog moving not only helps his physical health but his mental health as well. Find an exercise your dog enjoys and stick with it.
  • Portion control: Ask your veterinarian the best food to feed your dog and how much you should be feeding him for his size.
  • Weigh-ins: Weighing your dog every few weeks will help keep track of your dog’s progress. Ensure that your dog is not losing too much weight too fast, as that could be just as unhealthy, if not more, as being obese.

For more on German Shepherd obesity specifically, we have an excellent article for you linked below:

Is My German Shepherd Overweight? Here’s How to Tell

Deafness

Catahoula Leopard dogs are genetically predisposed to deafness, so it may become an issue in your Catahoula German Shepherd mix. 

Catahoula looking at you

If your Catahoula German Shepherd mix is white in color, it has an 80 percent chance of being deaf.

If your mix has parents with the merleOpens in a new tab. color pattern or patches of color in the fur, they are 25 percent more likely to be deaf or even blind.

Dogs who are deaf from an early age are easy to diagnose. They usually don’t come when you call them and don’t respond to other noises.

However, in dogs that become deaf later, it’s more difficult to diagnose, especially if they only become deaf in one ear.

If you suspect your Catahoula German Shepherd mix may be deaf, there is a test that he can take to verify. It is called the BAER test, or Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response testOpens in a new tab.. This test measures brain wave activity in response to certain sounds.

If it turns out that your dog is indeed deaf, you will need to take proper precautions and always keep your dog on a leash. You will also need to train your dog a little bit differently as well. Living with a deaf dog can be challenging but also an enriching experience. 

Cancer

Cancer tends to be the leading cause of death in dogs over 10 years oldOpens in a new tab.. Your Catahoula German Shepherd dog has a long life expectancy, about 12 years or so. This means that cancer may develop in their old age. 

If caught early, you may be able to treat cancer. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty going to the bathroom
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Masses (Make sure to feel around your dog often for possible masses that are forming.)
  • Lethargy or no interest in regular activities
  • Difficulty breathing or an excess of panting
  • Issues eating or swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Foul odor
  • Cuts that will not heal
  • Stiffness

If your dog has any of these symptoms, you must bring them to the veterinarian as soon as you can. It may not be cancer, but if it is, your vet may recommend different types of treatment:

  • Surgery: The veterinarian may recommend removing the cancerous mass or tumor.
  • Radiation or chemotherapy: If the mass or tumor has spread to other parts of the body, the vet may recommend radiation treatment or chemotherapy to treat cancer.
  • Pain medication: The vet may also recommend pain medications to help with the symptoms of cancer.
  • More food: Since one of the cancer symptoms may be weight loss, the vet may recommend an increase in your dog’s diet.

As stated above, if caught early enough, your dog’s cancer may be treatable, so it is vital to schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian.

Nutritional Requirements

Both Catahoula Leopard dogs and German Shepherds are working dogs, so Catahoula German Shepherd mixes require high-quality nutrition to keep their energy up.

When feeding your dog, you should focus on:

  • Healthy proteins
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Oils

Some food and ingredients to avoid:

  • Soy
  • Corn, including cornmeal and corn gluten
  • Wheat
  • Powdered cellulose
  • Meat by-products
  • Chocolate and caffeine
  • Raw bread dough
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Avocados

You should feed your dog twice a day. Dry food will help with your dog’s teeth overall, so it is recommended to avoid wet food with your Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

And, of course, it is very important that you be selective with what human foods that you choose to give to your dog.

For a complete list of what human foods you can and cannot give to your dog, be sure to read this excellent article below. It will remove all of the guesswork for you!

Human Foods Safe for German Shepherds: And What to Avoid

Exercise Requirements

The Catahoula German Shepherd mix is an extremely active dog. You will need to exercise this breed for at least one hour a day, preferably more. If you do not exercise your dog, he may start to act out or become aggressive.

Since this mix is also very intelligent, you should combine exercise time with games to make it more interesting for your dog and stimulate them mentally. Some games you could play are:

  • Fetch or frisbee toss: Throw your dog a ball, toy, or frisbee, and have him bring it back to you.
  • Stair exercise: Stay at the bottom of the stairs with your dog. Throw a ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “go.” Have your dog run up the stairs and retrieve the ball.
  • Puzzle toys: You can buy a puzzle toy for your dog and have their mind be challenged. The Wisedom Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog ToyOpens in a new tab. is a great tool for this, as it requires your dog to work for their treats.
  • Commands: Teaching your dog to sit and rollover is actually quite stimulating. Teaching them even more tricks can be a great exercise. Dogs can learn over one hundred words!

For an in-depth look at how interactive toys can be useful for you puppy or adult dog, we have 2 great articles for you below – complete with product listings and summaries of why we recommend each product:

  1. The Best German Shepherd Puppy Supplies
  2. The Best Toys for German Shepherd Puppies and Adults

Be careful not to over-exercise your Catahoula German Shepherd mix as this could be potentially dangerous. Your dog may become exhausted and dehydrated, causing him to overheat. Pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Excessive panting
  • Sore muscle
  • Stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Lameness
  • Red gums
  • Foaming at the mouth

If your dog has any of these symptoms, it is important to cool it on the exercises and take it easy.

Cost

Catahoula German Shepherd mixes are actually pretty rare finds. You may have to travel across state lines to purchase one.

Since they are rare, the cost for one ranges from about $400-1,000. The price will, of course, vary by the breeder.

As always, it is highly important that you make sure that you are purchasing from an ethical breeder, and be weary of any breeders that do not take a strong interest in your puppy’s new home – these breeders are putting profit before your puppy’s well-being!

Final Thoughts

So, you’re thinking about getting a Catahoula German Shepherd mix? Well, hopefully, after reading this, you’ve made your decision.

Catahoula German Shepherd mixes are beautiful, intelligent, loyal, and perfect guard dogs, but they are not for everyone, especially first-time dog owners.

If you are to purchase one, you will need to consider the means and costs that one will require.

This dog breed is predisposed to many different health problems, such as hip dysplasia, bloat, deafness, cancer, and more. You need to be prepared for these issues if you decide to purchase or adopt a Catahoula German Shepherd mix.

If you are totally prepared for this breed, then happy hunting! They are difficult to find, but once you do, you’ll have a perfect pal for over ten happy years!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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